Lo­cals trek Kokoda as a trib­ute

Childers pair’s gru­elling trek

Isis Town and Country - - FRONT PAGE -

TWO Childers men have de­cided to com­mem­o­rate An­zac Day with the rather en­er­getic step of trekking Pa­pua New Guinea’s in­fa­mous Kokoda Track.

As you read this, Gary Ralph and Greg Upham are more than likely puff­ing and pant­ing as they slog out the no­to­ri­ously dif­fi­cult walk­ing trail, ex­plor­ing the bat­tle­fields in an ef­fort to grasp a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the Kokoda cam­paign.

Mr Ralph, 59, chief en­gi­neer at Isis Mill, and Mr Upham, 60, a cane farmer, are mak­ing their way through the un­for­giv­ing 96km trail, av­er­ag­ing a dis­tance of 14km a day, which they es­ti­mate will take eight days to com­plete.

While it may seem like an im­pos­si­ble task, the duo have been rig­or­ously train­ing for the past three months in prepa­ra­tion for the mo­men­tous oc­ca­sion.

To pre­pare for the ra­zor­back ridges of the Owen Stan­ley Ranges, the great mates have been putting their bod­ies to the test, un­der­go­ing cir­cuit and pool train­ing, hill climbs and long dis­tance hikes.

Ev­ery Satur­day, the pair would tackle Mt Woowoonga, near Biggen­den, with weighted packs of up to 15kg.

De­spite ris­ing con­fi­dence in their im­proved fit­ness, the pair were real­is­tic about what was ahead of them, ac­knowl­edg­ing it wasn’t pos­si­ble to en­tirely repli­cate the con­di­tions at home that will con­front them on Kokoda.

“Mud is the one thing we can’t re­ally repli­cate here. That and the hu­mid­ity,” Mr Upham said.

“It might still be rain­ing, but the hu­mid­ity will be ex­tremely high. There will be a lot more hills than we’ve been train­ing for.”

But that hasn’t stopped the pair from be­liev­ing in them­selves.

“Hope­fully the psy­che will be that all of a sud­den you’ll de­velop the at­ti­tude ev­ery me­tre for­ward is the less you have to do,” Mr Ralph said.

Mr Upham added: “The more fit you are, the eas­ier it will be. The more pre­pared you are for it, the more you’ll en­joy it.”

For the two friends, tack­ling the track was an im­por­tant step in piec­ing to­gether the his­toric event.

“It al­most should be com­pul­sory for ev­ery­body in Aus­tralia to go over... any­body who thinks there’s any mis­guided glory of war, they want to think again,” Mr Upham said.

“I hope we can re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate the whole story of it bet­ter.”

PHOTO: ZACH HOGG BUN220414KOK1

READY, SET, TREK: Gary Ralph and Greg Upham are walk­ing the Kokoda Track in Pa­pua New Guinea in the lead-up to An­zac Day.

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